11.3 Energy production


11.3.1 Evolution of the power sector energy mix

All reports see variable renewable generation, mainly wind and solar, playing a very large role. Battery storage capacity helps meet this requirement in all reports, although to different extents, with the US report’s scenarios making assumptions on the amount of storage available. Some natural gas remains as the main baseload, chiefly for stability purposes in certain regions, to a small extent across Europe overall but more significantly in the UK and USA. 

Despite the decrease in this generation, more infrastructure is built in the US to expand capacity with CCS-equipped plants. The UK sees hydrogen to be used to decarbonize this remaining gas power production capacity, especially from electrolysis, which will depend on the price of hydrogen. Nuclear remains, but with a smaller share than today (even in France). Nevertheless, a large number of nuclear powerplants are to be retired in the US, compensated by added capacity from SMRs and advanced technologies (the role of SMRs is less explicit in other reports).

All reports see an increase in peak as well as overall demand. To meet this demand, in addition to accommodating intermittency, a large amount of new transmission infrastructure needs to be built. Market reforms and storage help, as do energy efficiency and demand reductions, but they are not enough (although FR insists more than the other countries on the importance of reducing demand). The extent of the need for new infrastructure varies widely across reports: The UK mainly focuses on peak, while the US argues for a 60% increase in high-voltage transmission and large sums for EV charging infrastructure. Also, the US report is more hopeful for demand management to deal with peak.

11.3.2 Fossil fuels production

Oil and gas production declines by a substantial margin in the UK, US and EU—and is in any case negligible in France. Nevertheless, there is substantial variation across scenarios in the US report, with declines of 25% to 85% in oil production, and from 20% to 90% in natural gas production. The UK insists on GHG reductions in venting and through gas recovery. 

11.3.3 The availability of biomass

FR is by far the most detailed on biomass availability and usage. FR sees a very high competition for biomass resources, which it says will require using biomass in the most efficient places (notably aviation). Similarly, in the US, all biomass available is used in all scenarios, while alternative scenarios evaluate the impacts of additional biomass availability. All biomass is used in these scenarios as well, mainly for BECCS.

11.3.4 Hydrogen’s contribution

Hydrogen plays a role in all reports, although none see it as a dominant fuel by 2050. As concerns production, the UK expects almost all hydrogen to come from methane reforming with CCS, while the others are more optimistic about electrolysis, especially from 2040. The US mentions hydrogen produced from BECCS as well as electrolysis and methane reforming. In terms of infrastructure needs, the UK discusses the need for infrastructure reform programs to convert existing natural gas distribution networks. 

Hydrogen is used to decarbonize the remaining gas power production capacity. To meet this goal, the UK sees hydrogen used in pure form to replace natural gas, while the US discusses a blend with natural gas. The UK also sees hydrogen used as ammonia in shipping; in industrial combustion to displace fossil fuels; in transport for heavy-duty vehicles, buses and trains; in buildings for peak heat; and in power generation as a storable low-carbon fuel for peak generation (with ammonia). The US has an overlapping list of uses: in fuel cell trucks, for producing ammonia and other chemicals; for the direct reduction of iron; and in industrial heating. The US also sees it as an intermediate fuel: as an input to the synthesis of hydrocarbon fuels and as a supplement to natural gas used in gas turbine power generation. The EU has a list similar to the UK’s and also mentions hydrogen as the most economical alternative in the industry metals segment.

Table 11.1 – Summary of information on emissions across reports #